Meet Our New Executive Director!

Just a couple weeks ago, Compassionate Action for Animals announced that a new executive director had been selected. Laura Matanah will begin working with CAA in December with a one-month training period alongside Unny Nambudiripad, the current executive director.

Unny announced last July that he would be stepping down from the position in January 2017, and since then our hiring committee has been devoted to finding the right person to take his place, someone with a combination of nonprofit leadership experience, fundraising know-how, and good people skills. Plus, this person would have to have an outstanding passion for animal advocacy and an understanding of our diverse Twin Cities community. We are delighted to have found in Laura Matanah a candidate who captures all of these qualities and more.

Perhaps you’ve seen Laura at some of our CAA events over the past few years. She and her wife Sarah have been active members of the community, attending dine outs, potlucks, and our annual banquet. Laura also has experience volunteering with CAA’s pay-per-view outreach, sharing our message of compassion for animals with members of the general public. Her motivation to apply for the position was based on the impact CAA’s work had on her. She says, “CAA’s incremental approach is what enabled me to fully acknowledge the depth of farmed animal suffering and become a committed vegan. CAA also led me to become an animal advocate in my personal life.”

Laura (on the right) and Sarah at Twin Cities Veg Fest 2016

The majority of Laura’s nonprofit experience comes from her tenure as executive director for Rainbow Rumpus, an organization that began as a small group of volunteers who wanted to create great stories for kids from LGBT-headed homes and grew to be the primary publisher of LGBT family fiction worldwide, run by a combination of paid staff and volunteers.

To achieve this remarkable growth over a period of eight years, Laura recruited, trained, and inspired volunteers; worked with the board to create and implement individual donor fundraising plans; and ensured the organization consistently achieved its program goals. She worked with board and staff members to expand their impact by developing strategic plans, logic models, and systems for evaluation; built and maintained relationships with institutional partners; managed finances; and supervised staff.

In addition to this extensive nonprofit experience, Laura also has experience as an elementary teacher in the Minneapolis Public Schools. Of special note, during her time at Pratt School, Laura was a member of the Instructional Leadership Team, which provided vision and support for high-quality instruction through a racial equity lens. She played a key role in initiating a program to begin centralizing the voices of families of color at the school and in leading professional development to help teachers address their own unconscious bias.

And now what does Laura envision for CAA? We’ll let her tell you in her own words:

I think the change in leadership is a chance for all of us to look at the organization with fresh eyes. Here are some questions I’m considering:

  • How well do our programs and mission align?
  • How effective are we at getting people to change their diets?
  • Are there new strategies we want to incorporate?
  • Do we want to engage in other types of animal advocacy or talk more about the impacts of animal agriculture on wild animals, people, and the earth’s ecosystems?
  • How much do people from a range of racial and cultural communities feel welcome, participate, and share their talents?

I think it’s my job to support the community in developing processes to examine these questions, gather data, and make plans. That, of course, is a longer-term project. In the short-term, maintaining and growing CAA’s wonderful programs is my highest priority. It’s clear to me that in order to do that we need to expand our donor base, our board of directors, and the Twin Cities Veg Fest planning committee. Also, in light of current events, the welcome of our multicultural community seems more important than ever.

From the moment my wife Sarah and I got involved as volunteers, I was struck by CAA’s number of programs, volunteer commitment, and community energy. Participating in CAA’s events and becoming part of the vegan community has been a huge source of joy to me.

During Twin Cities Veg Fest, I was delighted to meet a 2nd grader Ivy who goes to Folwell, which houses the International Fine Arts Program I taught in, and to see 4th-grader Johanna, who was one of my students at Pratt. I’m excited to connect with families who are part of CAA.

I can’t wait to become a full-time animal advocate and get to know everyone in the community better.

We are excited to welcome Laura to the team. Her genuine warmth, collaborative spirit, and passion for the movement are the ideal ingredients for the future success of CAA.

Laura and family
Laura (on the right) with Da’Jon, Sarah, and Tajah

So what does Laura do when she’s not advocating for animals?

You’re likely to spot me walking our dog Houdini in the Seward neighborhood where we live. I bike, cook, read, play board games, and work with Sarah on turning our yard into a pollinator-friendly perennial garden. My spiritual life is supported by involvement with Twin Cities Friends Meeting (Quaker), Friends in El Salvador, and the Common Ground Meditation Center. I enjoy time with our 18-year-old twins, Da’Jon and Tajah, who are moving into the world of work and independence. I also enjoy snuggling with our six-toed cat Mitzi.

Laura will be at our 14th Annual Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck on November 19. You can meet her there and at the same time join in our annual celebration of gratitude.

Twin Cities Veg Fest 2016 in Pictures

Twin Cities Veg Fest 2016 was a huge success with thousands of people getting to explore a world of compassionate living over the course of two days at Coffman Memorial Union. Check out the slideshow below to catch a glimpse.

Big highlights, impressive stats, and inspiring testimonials

  • One attendee remarked that, though vegetarianism wasn’t “even her thing,” she’s now thinking more about getting into plant-based foods because of the festival. This is exactly the response that we hope for in putting together this festival.
  • More than 400 people attended the five cooking demos, and volunteers shared nearly 700 vegan food samples with those who attended.
  • Facebook live stream was a big feature this year, allowing us to reach even more people with our cooking demos and speaker presentations. The video of the talk by Marco Antonio Regil has received widespread attention with more than 29,000 views! Visit the Twin Cities Veg Fest Facebook page to see all of those videos, which are still up and running.
  • We had more than 130 volunteers help to make this festival a success. One of them remarked that they had been vegetarian ever since last year’s Twin Cities Veg Fest.
  • Social media was booming throughout the weekend! Check out posts about the festival on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and please follow us on social media if you don’t already.
  • Because the festival is free to attend and people come and go through the main doors all day, we don’t know exactly how many attended. Based on how many bags and programs were given out, we suspect that we had more than 4,000 attendees.

We certainly hope that many of those who attended were inspired to move toward a vegan diet. In the very least, they’ve become more aware of how they can make more compassionate choices in their lives everyday.

If you were able to come to the festival, whether as an attendee, exhibitors, volunteer, or presenter, we thank you for coming and hope you had a wonderful time. And we hope that whoever is reading this post will be inspired to join Compassionate Action for Animals in our work throughout the year as well as at next year’s festival. We look forward to its continued growth, allowing us to reach more and more people with the message of compassion.

Compassionate Times: What’s New at Twin Cities Veg Fest!

Our fifth annual Twin Cities Veg Fest is coming up in just a few weeks, and we hope you’re planning on joining us for this fun-filled celebration of compassion.

This year, you’ve got two days for you to choose from: Saturday, October 29 and Sunday, October 30. Each day from 11am to 4pm, we fill Coffman Memorial Union with a variety of exhibitors and food vendors and a different line-up of speaker presentations and cooking demos, all showing how fun and fulfilling it is to embrace a compassionate lifestyle. You might just want to come both days to catch it all!

Even if you’ve been to the festival in previous years, you’ll find a lot that you haven’t experienced there before. Here are just some of this year’s festival presenters that are altogether new or packaged in exciting new ways this time around:

  • Our local vegan superstar, The Herbivorous Butcher, returns, but this year, in addition to sharing their meat-free meats, they’ll wow us with a cooking demo. Don’t you want to know how Kale and Aubry Walch make their vegan food so good? That’ll be on Sunday at 1:30–not to be missed!
  • Another returning champion is our local vegan showgirl, Mistress Ginger. This year, instead of a cooking demo, she’ll be serving up a speaker presentation, sprinkled with song and dance. Catch “Compassion with a Fan Kick” on Saturday at 12:30.
  • We’ve also got vegan celebrities from out of town. Check out Mexican TV personality Marco Antonio Regil on Sunday at 11:30 and vegan chef Tess Challis on Sunday at 1:15. Marco educates and inspires, sharing about the many benefits a plant-based diet, while Tess shows you how to make that plant-based diet a reality with a cooking demo that includes Thai Red Curry Noodles.

And speaking of food, you can look forward to lots of fantastic vegan food all weekend long. That’s one of the wonderful things about Twin Cities Veg Fest: you don’t have to bother to read labels for animals ingredients because you can rest assured that it’s all vegan. Heavenly!

Of the long list of exhibitors and food vendors, here are some of the those that are new to the festival this year:

The festival is free to attend, and you’ll certainly have plenty to enjoy there without even dipping into your wallet. At the same time, we encourage you to support all the vegan vendors who are spreading a message of compassion through their businesses. In addition to the many food options, there will books, clothing, artwork, and other items available for purchase. Here are a few of the compassionate vendors that you can look forward to finding (and supporting!) at this year’s Twin Cities Veg Fest:

What we’ve listed here is just the tip of the iceberg. For a complete listing of all that will be available at this year’s Twin Cities Veg Fest, visit the festival website. There, you can read more about all the festival offerings and get the schedule for speaker presentations and cooking demos.

Join us on October 29 and 30 and please invite your friends and family. This celebration of compassion is for everyone!

Meet Our Newest Board Member – Jennifer Swick

CAA is happy to welcome Jennifer Swick to our Board of Directors. Let’s get to know her!

Jennifer first became aware of the issues with animal agriculture about fifteen years ago at the Living Green Expo. A group there was doing pay-per-view outreach, showing people how animals suffer on factory farms. Jennifer describes it as one of those life-changing moments, when you’re introduced to a whole new reality that you didn’t know existed. “Oh, this is the world I’m living in!”

That intense awakening planted a seed of awareness that continued to grow in the years that followed. Then about four years ago, Jennifer became friends with a bona fide vegan. She had never before known a vegan personally, but in knowing one got to see how easy and doable it is to eat only plant-based foods. Pretty soon, she was taking action for animals: cutting animal products out of her diet and getting involved with CAA as a volunteer.

Her first activities with CAA were leafleting and pay-per-view outreach. Pay-per-view has a special place in her heart since since it’s what originally opened her eyes to this cause. She also keeps the Roseville library stocked with vegetarian starter kits. Apparently, they go like hotcakes there!

Her favorite volunteer activity has been helping out with Bridges of Respect, CAA’s humane education program. She started by assisting with presentations and now leads them. The program is a good match for her background in education, since she served for ten years as the education director at a large church in Minnetonka.

For the past seven years, Jennifer has worked at People Serving People, helping families experiencing homelessness. You might wonder, how has working with these families influenced Jennifer’s approach to vegan advocacy?

Jennifer says that when someone in a crisis mode, lacking basic necessities such as food and shelter, it’s not the right time to contemplate making big life changes. Instead, she advises that if we want to engage with economically disadvantaged populations, the focus should be on making fresh fruits and veggies available. For instance, it’s a really positive development that farmer’s markets now accept EBT cards.

This is a very important perspective to consider if we want to engage diverse communities through our work, and we’re especially grateful to have someone with specialized experience in this area joining the board.

And what excites Jennifer most about being on the board? The people. She’s found the leadership at CAA to be very inspiring, and being a part of the team is good way to continue to learn from others. Also, she likes thinking about the big picture, and being on the board gives an opportunity to help shape the future of the organization. Plus, it’s an especially exciting time to get involved with the executive director transition happening in December.

Along with all of the amazing work Jennifer does for animals and for people, she loves tennis, ultimate frisbee, biking, and reading. She’s a big fan of Trader Joe’s Three Layer Hummus and will happily order the mock sesame chicken from Evergreen Chinese Restaurant.

Jennifer says she grateful to be a part of CAA and that this community is really a gift. Well, we feel the same about having her on board, sharing her many gifts with all of us and for the animals.


Vegan Dining by the University

Do you live on or near the campus of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cites? Are you wondering where you can find vegan food in the area that tastes good and won’t break the bank? Whether you’re looking for full meals or quick snacks, look no further!

This list was compiled by some of our very own student volunteers who live on or near campus. Their recommendations come from their firsthand experience dining at these vegan-friendly spots.

When your hunger kicks in, give one of these places a whirl, and be sure to thank the restaurant managers for having awesome vegan options!

Stadium Village

  • Blaze Pizza
    • 1000 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • Delicious pizza! You can get a personal pizza for only eight dollars with all the toppings you want, and they have Daiya nondairy cheese. The pizza cooks super fast—delivering instant gratification!
  • Bruegger’s Bagels
    • 720 Washington Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • There are many vegan bagels here, such as the olive oil rosemary, which is delicious. They have hummus as a topping and also sell it in tubs—perfect if you’re getting a dozen bagels to go. They also sometimes have a vegan soup option.
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill
    • 800 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • Great cheap burritos! The Sofritas option is spicy tofu filling, but the guacamole does not come free, unlike the regular veggie bean burrito. You can also add roasted veggies.
  • French Meadow Bakery & Café
    • 123 Harvard Street SE, Minneapolis, MN, 55455, lower level
    • There are a few vegan options, including some baked goods.
  • Jimmy John’s
    • 219 SE Oak St, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • Try the Vegetarian Unwich without cheese and mayo. The avocado spread is great.
  • Kitty Corner Cafe
    • 806 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • Vegan waffles. Need we say more?
  • Mesa Pizza Stadium Village
    • 921 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • They have a veggie pizza you can get without cheese. They have by-the-slice pizza prepared. Sometimes they don’t have the cheeseless veggie pizza as one of those options, but you could always ask.
  • Noodles & Company
    • 820 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • A few of their vegan menu items include the Indonesian Peanut Saute, the Japanese Pan Noodles, and the Pasta Fresca without cheese. There’s lots to choose from here!
  • Yogurt Lab
    • 309 SE Oak St, Minneapolis, MN 55455
    • There are some dairy-free sorbets with many vegan toppings available.


  • Bordertown Coffee
    • 315 16th Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • Delicious vegan baked goods and good coffee with nondairy milk! Most options are available in the morning before the usual coffee rush that happens before and between classes. In other words, get there early if you want the most selection!
  • Burrito Loco
    • 418 13th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • They have a bunch of vegan options, excellent salsas, and their beans aren’t made with lard, as they are in many other local Mexican restaurants.
  • Camdi Restaurant
    • 1325 4th St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • Check out the vegetarian menu and make sure to ask if there is fish sauce in what you order.
  • Himalayan Dinkytown
    • 1415 4th St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • They offer amazing veggie dishes over rice or in wraps, and the sauces are divine. You can also choose to add fresh uncooked veggies, and they also offer salads like their pickle salad and tabouli. Favorites includes chana masala, falafel sandwiches, and pyazi, which are veggies fried in dough.
  • Insomnia Cookies
    • 402 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • There is a vegan chocolate chip cookie option. Be sure to specify that you want the vegan one!
  • Jimmy John’s
    • 404 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • Try the Vegetarian Unwich without cheese and mayo. The avocado spread is great!
  • Mesa Pizza Dinkytown
    • 1323 4th St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • They have a veggie pizza you can get without cheese. They have by-the-slice pizza prepared. Sometimes they don’t have the cheeseless veggie pizza as one of those options, but you could always ask.
  • One Two Three Sushi
    • 318 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • Lots of veggie options!
  • Qdoba Mexican Eats
    • 324 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • Burritos, tacos, and naked burritos! It’s like Chipotle but without the Sofritas.
  • Sssdude-Nuts
    • 317 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • They’ve got one vegan donut option, just in case you need a donut!
  • Wally’s Falafel & Hummus
    • 423 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
    • They have amazing falafel, and for the falafel sandwiches, you have the option to add pickles! Try the deluxe falafel sandwich that has french fries in it. Also, the baba ghanoush, hummus and pita, and tabouli are all very good.

West Bank

  • Afro Deli
    • 1931 S 5th St, Minneapolis, MN 55454
    • Lots of good stuff! Try the falafel and falafel sandwiches but make sure to order without yogurt sauce and other dairy ingredients. Also, the sambusas, french fries, sweet potato fries, Somali tea, vegetarian platter, and veggie keke are fantastic.
  • Hard Times Cafe
    • 1821 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55454
    • Everything is vegetarian, and the vegan items are clearly marked and the staff is knowledgeable. The vegan biscuits and gravy are very popular. Also, their vegan baked goods are out of this world. Sometimes, they’ve got vegan donuts and decadent cupcakes, and often they’ve got huge muffins (like a meal in itself) for just $2.50.
  • Red Sea Ethiopian Restaurant
    • 320 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454
    • Get the vegetarian platter or one of the components of the vegetarian platter.
  • Republic
    • 221 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454
    • You’re in good hands with mock duck and quinoa on the menu!
  • Triple Rock Social Club
    • 629 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454
    • Comfort food central with a very vegan-friendly menu. They have amazing tater tots, vegan Chicago dog, and po’boy. It’s a great place for brunch, with options including vegan pancakes, french toast, and tofu scramble. Appetizers are discounted during happy hour!
  • The Wienery
    • 414 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454
    • Vegan hot dogs! (The hours are weird, so plan ahead for that.)

St. Paul

  • Gopher Spot (St. Paul Student Center)
    • University of Minnesota, 2017 Buford Ave, St Paul, MN 55108
    • A good spot to get snacks between classes! They offer Alternative Baking Company cookies, Holy Land hummus and pita, and Amy’s nondairy burritos. They currently have a vegan hotdog on very specific days, but that may change—as the staff for details!
  • Mim’s Cafe
    • 1435 Cleveland Ave N, St Paul, MN 55108
    • Vegan options include falafel, hummus and pita, baba ghanoush, and fries. You can also get a veggie burrito, but just make sure to ask for no cheese or sour cream.

Thanks to all of our student volunteers who contributed to this article with their recommendations!

And of course one place to find lots of vegan food on campus will be Twin Cities Veg Fest on October 29 and 30, 2016 at Coffman Memorial Union. The event is free to attend, and there will be lots of free vegan food samples as well as larger meals available for purchase. Join us there!

Vegan State Fair 2016

The Minnesota State Fair is a local tradition for many. This annual festival is known for its decadent foods, usually deep-fried and served on a stick. Most of these foods are known not to be vegan, for example: cheese curds, deep-fried Twinkies, and corn dogs.

For those of us who choose to only eat plant-based foods, what can we do? Do we avoid the fair altogether? No way! If the fair is something you enjoy, you can still enjoy it, finding plenty of awesome vegan offerings to satisfy your hunger along the way. And yes, some of these vegan offerings are even served deep-fried and on a stick.

A couple years ago, we published a guide to vegan food at the fair. You can check that out, as much of it still applies, but this year we put out a call to all of our volunteers going to the fair and asked them to let us know what they could find. We got a number of beautiful photos and fun descriptions that we’ll share with you here. Take a look at the photo collage, read the descriptions, and bring this list with you when you go to the fair in the next few days.

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Help Us Reach Our Stretch Goal by August 31!

Our fundraiser for Twin Cities Veg Fest has made fantastic strides in the last few days, and we’ve just surpassed our original goal of $4,500! Including contributions made by check through the mail, our grand total is now at $5,553. Wow! Huge thanks to all of our supporters for your generosity.

In case you haven’t donated yet, there’s still time to give! Please help us reach our stretch goal of $6,000 by August 31. While $6,000 might sound like a lot of money for the festival, it’s just a fraction of what it costs to put on an event like this, especially now that we are expanding it to two days.

With your support, this year’s Twin Cities Veg Fest can reach more people and show them how a compassionate life can be fun, uplifting, and most certainly delicious. Please give today!

Now Accepting Applications for a New Executive Director

As you may have heard, after five years of dedicated service, Unny Nambudiripad is moving on from his post as executive director at Compassionate Action for Animals. We wish him well on his continuing journey and look forward to appointing a highly qualified individual who can carry on this important position, overseeing all facets of our organization and providing inspiring and effective leadership.

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Give Today and Help Make Twin Cities Veg Fest Great!

Have you heard? The fifth annual Twin Cities Veg Fest will be held at Coffman Memorial Union on Saturday, October 29 and Sunday, October 30, 2016. That’s not just one, but two days of compassionate fun!

We’ve just launched a crowdsourcing campaign to help us raise money for the festival, and your support could help us reach our goal. Can you make a contribution of $25, $50, or $100? We welcome donations of any amount to help us reach our goal by August 31. Give today and help make Twin Cities Veg Fest great!

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Reflecting on the 2016 Animal Rights National Conference

A bunch of us from CAA recently attended the Animals Right National Conference in Los Angeles. We spent four days attending informative and inspirational sessions, networking with others in the animal protection movement, and enjoying some of the great vegan eats that LA has to offer. As the cherry on top this vegan ice cream sundae, on the day after the conference concluded, many of us went on a tour of Farm Santuary. Meeting the rescued animals was perhaps the ultimate inspiration.

Having been to the conference twice before, I was eager for new information. As someone who works full-time for CAA, I’m routinely immersed in our mission, and I was most interested in being exposed to different perspectives, particularly those that include more confrontational approaches to activism. For this reason, I attended talks by Lauren Gazzola, who advocates for not avoiding “looking bad” as vegan, and Wayne Hsiung, who leads the controversial Direct Action Everywhere. Hearing these other viewpoints was enriching, as it gave me an opportunity to better understand the spectrum of approaches to animal advocacy and social justice.

In addition, I was especially motivated hearing Dr. Melanie Joy speak on the subject of sustainable activism and how to nurture a resilient organization. That information I will surely make use of, not only for myself, but also as a way to support our volunteers.

Each of us who attended the conference got something different out of it, and each of us brings back some unique inspiration that will surely infuse our Twin Cities community with a renewed approach to advocating for farmed animals. Here’s a glimpse of what some of our volunteers and other staff members experienced at the 2016 Animal Rights National Conference:

AmyLeo bonds with Jimmy at Farm Sanctuary
AmyLeo bonds with Jimmy at Farm Sanctuary

Transformation and Inspiration by AmyLeo Barankovich

I found the conference to be fun, rejuvenating, comprehensive, inclusive, and sophisticated. After advocating for animals in near-isolation for two decades, I’ve recently reentered the animal rights community. In the past few years, I’ve seen glimpses of the movement’s transformation. This conference has given me even more awareness of this progress and has restored my hope in how humans are reinventing our relationship with animals. I am grateful for finding inspiration to return to public advocacy, which will surely enhance my work as a humane educator and vegan chef.

The 91-Year-Old Vegan by Kathleen Keene

One of the most memorable moments for me was meeting a 91-year-old Dutch woman who came to the CAA table. She had been vegan all her life because her father suddenly didn’t want to eat animals anymore, and that caused quite an upheaval in the family. Eventually, she and her whole family eschewed eating animals altogether. And she was quite spry for 91! At the end of our chat, I gave her a knuffel, which is Dutch for hug!

Dave at Farm Sanctuary
Dave with Paolo at Farm Sanctuary

Networking, the Future of Food, and the Animals Themselves by Dave Rolsky

The best thing about the conference is always the people. I go each year to connect with others in the movement and learn more about what they’re up to. The session I found most exciting was a panel discussing the future of food, specifically cultured meat, egg whites produced by yeast, and meat alternatives. Finally, visiting Farm Sanctuary after the conference was a good reminder of why our work is so important. Meeting individual animals reminds me of all the other animals suffering in factory farms who need our help.

Brita and Grace at the 2016 Animal Rights National Conference
Brita and Grace at the 2016 Animal Rights National Conference

Renewed Hope in a Violent World by Brita Bengtson

I think we can all agree that 2016 has been tough. I entered the conference wondering if it’s worth working for any cause in such a violent world. I left the conference uplifted by new knowledge of all the progress being made for farmed animals: new outreach technology (Animal Equality’s iAnimal project), new food technology (plant-based and clean meats that don’t require any animal use), legislative victories, and much more. I’m hopeful again that we may someday achieve peace for all beings.

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